WELLE, Thomas atte (b.1347), of Sandwich, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. 3 June 1347, yr. s. of William atte Welle (d.c.1360) of Sandwich by his w. Agnes (d.1361).
Commr. of inquiry, Cinque Ports Nov. 1387 (piracy).
Jurat, Sandwich Dec. 1396-7, 1398-9.1
The deaths of his father shortly before February 1360 and of his elder brother, William, in October 1361, left Thomas atte Welle heir to the property the former had only recently acquired, principally the manor of Grove in Woodnesborough, Kent, which was held of the King in chief. The wardship and marriage of the younger William, and of any subsequent heirs should he die, had been granted to John Coloigne of London, who also leased two-thirds of the manor itself at a yearly rent of seven marks payable at the Exchequer. Coloigne in his turn disposed of them to Robert Flemyng and Thomas’s kinsman, Hugh atte Welle† of Sandwich, and Flemyng also gained custody of the third of the manor held by Thomas’s mother Agnes when it came by her death into crown control. Thomas came of age in 1368, offered proof in February 1369, and received livery of his inheritance in May following.2
Several years later atte Welle embarked on a career of depredation at sea. In 1381 he and other men from Sandwich captured in the straits between Dover and Calais a Flemish ship freighted with plaster, claiming that it was enemy property, and destroyed the letters testimonial from the count of Flanders which would have proved the contrary. But the injured merchants speedily complained to the King, threatening reprisals on English trade, and so, in September, the mayor of Sandwich was ordered to call atte Welle and his accomplices before him and see justice done. Notwithstanding this incident atte Welle was made a commissioner in 1387 to deal with the English pirates who had captured and wrecked a ship of Lübeck. This cannot be taken as sign of his reform, for in May 1389 he was summoned before the Council to answer charges made by certain ‘strangers of the King’s amity’, presumably of like crimes. His more peaceful trading ventures included the import of wine from Gascony.3 Atte Welle is not recorded after 1399.